High school students have been on the march recently since the Parkland shooting in Florida. Soon they may be marching right up to the ballot box in the nation’s capital.
Washington D.C. is on track to become the first place in the country to allow people as young as 16-years-old to vote in federal elections.
There is a rising movement in America and abroad as more and more cities and states consider ways to broaden voting rights for young people.
“At the age of 16, our society already gives young people greater legal responsibility. They can drive a car. They can work. Some are raising a family or helping their family make ends meet. They pay taxes,” said D.C. Councilmember Charles Allen, a Democrat who introduced the bill last week to lower the voting age. “And yet, they can’t exercise their voice where it matters most — at the ballot box.”
Hey Mayor they also can’t buy cigarettes, (technically) see a rated R movie, buy a gun in some states, serve in the military, be drafted, or buy alcohol.
The Mayor of D.C., Muriel Bowser, along with most of the council, have already signed onto the bill. The Washington Post has thrown its support behind the plan arguing in an editorial that the promotion of civic engagement outweighs concerns about life experience or precedent.
There has been a significant change in public opinion since Allen introduced a similar bill three years ago that went nowhere. He credits the change in part to the eloquence and passion that teen activists demonstrated in the post-Parkland “March for Our Lives” and nationwide school walkouts to protest gun violence.
“Two years ago, the argument that I would hear people make was, really? Have you met a 16-year-old?” Allen told NBC News. “What we’ve seen over the last several months has just completely eviscerated that argument.”
Just over the D.C. border in Takoma Park, MD., they became the first jurisdiction in the country to allow 16 and 17-year-olds to vote in 2013. Since then a handful of other progressive cities have followed suit, the largest was Berkeley, CA.
American cities only have the power to give voting rights for municipal elections. Since the District of Columbia is both a city and a pseudo-state, they can allow teens to vote in all elections, even the presidency.
The 26th Amendment was passed in response to youth unrest during the Vietnam War. It gave every 18-year-old the right to vote. But it says nothing that would prevent states from lowering their voting age even further, experts say.
There is very little data on the political views of the post-millennial generation, those born after 1996. But if they are like the generation ahead of them, it will be a boon for Democrats and the liberal agenda.
“America’s children took to the streets and led marches with a unified message that rang out across the country: We need a Congress that will protect us,” said former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, whose gun safety group is involved in the effort. “We are making sure that they have the opportunity to cast their ballots for the first time and truly make a difference.”
But advocates say the main reason to expand the vote is nonpartisan. Voting becomes a habit, and there are studies that suggest 16- and 17-year-olds are more likely to develop that habit than 18-year-olds, who are often moving away from their local community to attend college or start work.
Canada is making a similar move to lower the voting age.
“We know that Canadians who vote early in their lifetime will continue to vote, and those who don’t vote in the first few elections will tend not to vote later on.”
Austria, Brazil, and parts of the United Kingdom, among others, have also allowed 16-year-olds to vote in some elections.
You know what I have no problem with minors being able to vote but let’s let them buy cigarettes, register them for the draft (including women), purchase guns, and buy alcohol. Then lower the age, because I’ll be damned if I’m going to let someone vote on an issue that they have no experience dealing with.
What do you think about this new effort?
Credit: NBC News